Make sure your outdoor site gets at least eight hours of sunlight for most vegetables, especially tomatoes that want heat and sunshine. The right type of soil is also crucial. For containers, use a potting mix that is a bit lighter weight and lets water drain through, whereas in a raised bed use a triple mix soil and compost, recommends Nolan. “At the garden centre, you’ll find bags formulated specifically for pots. There’s different potting soil for flowers versus vegetables, but you can use the same soil for herbs and flowers. I buy the vegetable potting soil and I use it for all my containers,” says Nolan.
Almost one in five Canadians started growing food in 2020 and 67 per cent of new gardeners say the pandemic influenced their decision to start growing food at home, according to a study out of Dalhousie University.
Seed companies are already warning customers of delays in shipping as last year’s demand for seeds appears to have remained consistent.
Include flowers in your kitchen garden; it looks good and can help manage pests, and attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to the garden. “Nasturtiums are a great trap crop for aphids if you’re trying to a do a little beneficial pest management. They’re also pretty and if you plant them at the edge of the garden they’ll cascade over a raised bed or a pot, are bee magnets, attract pollinators and are edible: you can eat the blooms and the leaves,” says Nolan.
One benefit of planting a kitchen garden in a raised bed is that the soil warms up sooner in the spring, so you can plant veggies sooner than you necessarily would if you were to plant in the ground, says Tara Nolan, author and co-founder of gardening website Savvy Gardening.
The May long weekend is typically the benchmark for planting tomatoes, peppers and all the heat lovers in your garden because there is less threat of frost, says Nolan, who lives in Dundas, Ont. “Cooler weather-loving vegetables like peas, kale, carrots and beets can be sown earlier. So depending on if the soil has warmed up in the garden I usually plant around late March or early April.”
Local seed exchange Seedy Saturday is an annual event held in communities across Canada. Toronto’s Seedy Saturday will be held Feb. 27 as a virtual event and include links to seed vendors and organizations with gardening information, plus live and pre-recorded webinars and Zoom breakout rooms so that people with virtual booths can connect and answer questions. Neighbourhood groups will do seed exchanges locally, with drop-off and pickup points across the city, says Rhonda Teitel-Payne, a co-ordinator for Toronto Urban Growers , a not-for-profit network for people who grow food across the city. New gardeners who don’t have seeds to share can still get involved by making a small donation.
Once you have your seeds, read your seed packet carefully to determine whether the variety of plant you have can handle transplanting well. Some vegetables, such as root vegetables, don’t transplant well and will need to be direct sowed—they’ll go right into your garden. Glean from the seed packet, or from our Planting Guides, the suggested planting times both indoors and outdoors for the plant variety in your region.
Next, take your butter knife and cut around your seedling as though it were a piece of cake. The important part is to pick your seedling up by its leaves, not the stem. It may seem counter-intuitive to do this because a stem seems much stronger then the leaves. However, leaves, if damaged can recover much more easily than a damaged stem, which can inhibit the growth of the plant.
Sowing (Planting) Seeds
Your seedlings will be ready to transplant if and when they look too big for their floats or you can see their roots making their way out of the bottom. This process is easier to do than one would think, and can be done with only one tool: a butter knife. Simply fill the new pots halfway with soil.
So, take your little seedling leaves in between your pointer finger and thumb, and with the knife gently guide the seedling’s root ball out of the flat and into your pot. Fill the pot the rest of the way up with soil, tamping it down very gently to help the seedling feel secure in its new home.
Time your seeding to the final frost date in your region. If you live in a cold weather climate, you can start many of your seedlings 1-2 months before the final date of frost. Remember, your warm weather crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and cucumber, can’t be put into the ground until the soil has warmed and no more danger of frost exists.
The plump, round seeds of nasturtiums are easy to plant, germinating in around seven to 10 days. They tend to produce a mound of round leaves first and then nonstop bright, cheerful flowers after around 60 days. The whole plant is edible—even the seeds, which make great fake capers. Plant the seeds in your garden after the ground has had a chance to warm in the spring. Soaking and scarifying the seeds will improve germination.
You can grow a lovely flower garden simply by directly sowing seeds of annual flowers. Starting seeds in the garden is easy, though it does require some patience. You won’t see many flowers for the first couple of months. But after they arrive, they often will bloom until frost hits. Unlike perennial flowers, which generally take two years to start blooming, annuals are quick growers and eager to get down to the business of blooming. Here are 12 of the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed.
Kevin Schafer/Getty Images
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
If you’re seeking a fast-growing vine, look no further than morning glories. This flower doesn’t transplant well, so seeds should be directly sown in your garden after your last frost date. The seeds have a hard outer covering that germinates faster if it’s scarified (nicked or rubbed with sandpaper) and then soaked in water overnight. Germination can take around 10 days. Morning glories are late bloomers, often not flowering for around 100 days after they’re planted. Some people refer to them as back-to-school flowers because they bloom in August.
Marigolds have become somewhat ubiquitous, and that should tell you something about how easy they are to grow. Their large seeds are easy to handle, and they are very reliable growers. Sow the seeds directly in your garden after all danger of frost has passed, or start them indoors four to six weeks prior to your last frost date. They take around four to 12 days to germinate and 60 to 70 days to bloom. Pinching off spent blooms from young plants can encourage them to bush out and set more flower buds.
Laura Buttafoco/EyeEm/Getty Images
Besides patience, annual flax requires little effort on your part. It takes around 18 to 21 days to germinate and 50 to 60 days to bloom. Mark the planting area, so you don’t accidentally plant something else where you’ve put its seeds. Sow the seeds after your last frost date. Flax plants can be floppy, so it helps to interplant them with sturdier flowers for support. Deadheading (removing spent flowers) will keep them blooming throughout the summer, and they will often reseed themselves.